DHM Survey Results
September 10, 2020
From September 3 to 8, 2020, DHM Research conducted a survey of Oregon voters. The purpose of the survey was to assess values and beliefs related to the presidential election, ongoing protests across the country and in Portland, and COVID-19.
This is the first of three planned data releases that focuses on Oregon voters’ opinions about the protests that have been ongoing since the death of George Floyd in May.
A majority of Oregon voters (56%) believe that the state is on the wrong track, while just 31% think we’re headed in the right direction.
After months of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, job losses, protests, and now an explosion of forest fires, Oregonians are unhappy. In the pre-pandemic months, right direction percentages hovered in the high-40s to low-50s, which was about average for the last two decades. In the first days of COVID-19 right direction percentages fell to 40% but then bounced up to 51% in April. This rise in positive outlook was a trend across the country, and even the globe, as people rallied around their communities and leaders. However, it didn’t take long for the new realities to sink in and now most Oregonians feel like we’ve lost our way.
Every area of the state reports feeling negatively, with majorities in the Portland metro area (54%), Willamette Valley (50%), and the rest of the state (63%) believing that Oregon is on the wrong track.
As always, perceptions of Oregon are driven by partisanship with Democrats and Republicans seeing very different versions of the state. Currently, 48% of Democrats say that the state is headed in the right direction compared to 18% of Republicans, and 23% of non-affiliated/other voters (NAV/other).
When asked an open-ended question to name the most important issue that they would like their state leaders to address, more voters mentioned something about the ongoing protests (30%) than any other issue. In fact, about twice as many mentioned protests compared than COVID-19 (16%) or the economy (13%). Addressing racism was mentioned by 7% of voters and police reform by 5%. Racism and police reform were mentioned significantly more among voters ages 18-29 (17% and 14% respectively).
A majority of Oregon voters disapprove of how all major elected leaders have responded to the ongoing protests across the United States and Oregon.
Nearly six in 10 Oregon voters disapprove of how President Donald Trump (59%), Governor Kate Brown (57%), and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (58%) are responding to the ongoing protests.
There are large demographic and partisan differences in opinions. For Trump, 86% of Republicans approve of his response compared to just 10% of Democrats and 33% of NAV/other. Conversely, Democrats tend to approve of Brown’s response (63%) while few Republicans (11%) and NAV/other
(27%) approve. Partisan differences are less extreme for Wheeler with 48% of Democrats approving of his response versus 13% of Republicans and 23% of NAV/other.
Support for Wheeler’s response the protests is higher among voters of color (41%) than it is among White voters (28%). It is also somewhat higher among voters with a college degree (38%) than it is with those with less education (23-27%). The differences of opinion about Wheeler by area of the state are relatively small. Approval is greater in the Willamette Valley (36%) and the Portland metro area (32%) than the rest of the state (24%).
Voters are split in their opinions about how the Portland Police have responded to the protests.
While there have been protests across the state, nowhere have they been as sustained and attention-grabbing as Portland. For over one hundred days protesters and Portland police officers have engaged and at times their interactions have turned violent. Although protests have been mostly confined to small areas of Portland, the images of the nightly events have had a statewide and national audience.
Overall, 46% of Oregon voters approve of the Portland Police response to the ongoing protests and 45% disapprove. Metro area voters’ assessment of the Portland Police are similar to other Oregonians with 46% approving of their response and 49% disapproving.
There are large differences in approval by race and age. 50% of White voters approve of the response of the Portland Police compared to 26% of voters of color. Approval steadily increases by age from just 21% of those ages 18-29, to 37% ages 30-44, 52% ages 45-64, and 59% ages 65+.
Two-thirds of Oregon voters disapprove of the ongoing protests in Portland and few believe that they have been helpful to Black Portlanders, race relations, or efforts to make police reforms.
By a margin of more than two to one, more Oregon voters disapprove (66%) of the protests in Portland than approve of them (31%). In the Portland metro area specifically, 61% disapprove and 36% approve.
Voters ages 18-29 are the only group to approve of the protests, with 62% saying that they approve compared to 33% who disapprove. Voters of color are split in their assessments with 49% approving and 46% disapproving.
Beyond general approval, voters were asked if the protests in Portland have been more helpful or harmful to Black Portlanders, race relations, and efforts to make police reforms. On all accounts, most voters do not believe that the protests are helpful. Just 28% believe that they are helpful to Black Portlanders, 24% to race relations, and 27% to efforts to make police reforms.
However, there are important demographic differences, most notably by age and race. For example, 52% of voters ages 18-29 and 51% of voters of color believe that the protests in Portland are helping Black Portlanders. Voters of color, however, are less likely to believe that the protests are helping race relations (39%).
A majority of Oregonians believe that the protests in Portland have been mostly violent. At the same time, just 29% feel that the Portland police have used too much force.
When presented the choice, 56% of Oregonians believe that the protests in Portland have been mostly violent while 36% think that they have been mostly peaceful, and 7% are unsure. As elsewhere, there are large partisan differences in voter assessments. 57% of Democrats believe that the protests have been mostly peaceful compared to 83% of Republicans who say that they have been mostly violent.
Oregon voters are more likely to believe that police in Portland have not used enough force (42%) in their response to protesters than believe that they have used too much force (29%).18% think they have used the right amount and 11% are unsure.
Again, there are significant differences in opinion by age and race. 66% of those ages 18-29 think the police are using too much force while 54% of those ages 45+ believe that the police are not using enough. Similarly, 60% of voters of color feel that the Portland police are using too much force compared to 45% of White voters (a plurality) who say that they are not using enough.
A majority of Oregon voters believe that “riot” is a more accurate description than “protest” of the ongoing events in Portland.
Some have adopted the word “riot” to describe the ongoing events in Portland. This includes everyday people on social media, political leaders in speeches, and the media in news reports. However, it’s often not clear where a protest stops and a riot begins. At the end of the survey, we asked voters what word is a more accurate description of the events in Portland: 55% said riot and 37% said protest.
The voters most likely to say that “riot” is the more accurate description are Republicans (85%), those ages 45+ (63-68%), those living in rural Oregon (64%), and those who have a high school degree or less (63%). The voters who say that “protest” is more accurate are those ages 18-29 (67%), Democrats (57%), and those who have a college degree (46%).
Research Methodology: The online survey consisted of 502 Oregon voters and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. This is a sufficient sample size to assess Oregonians’ opinions generally and to review findings by multiple subgroups.
Respondents were contacted by using a professionally maintained online panel. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by gender, age, area of the state, political party and education to reflect the profile of the November general election turnout.
Statement of Limitations: Any sampling of opinions or attitudes is subject to a margin of error. The margin of error is a standard statistical calculation that represents differences between the sample and total population at a confidence interval, or probability, calculated to be 95%. This means that there is a 95% probability that the sample taken for this study would fall within the stated margin of error if compared with the results achieved from surveying the entire population. This survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, is ±4.4%.
DHM Research: The research was conducted by DHM Research, an independent and nonpartisan public opinion research firm based in Portland, Oregon. DHM is a Certified B Corporation.
For inquiries, please contact John Horvick, DHM Research Director of Client Relations and Political Research, at email@example.com or 503.757.3051.